“Every human being must have boundaries in order to have successful relationships or a successful performance in life.” – Henry Cloud, psychologist
“…did you ever meet someone who got too much adult attention?”
Timothy was a slight, wiry, young man with a head of wild, blond hair cut long on one side, and an quick, mischievous smile. He seemed to vibrate with enthusiasm for whatever was going on, in his life. His friendly nature made him a popular guy in his crowd. But, at home, it was a different matter entirely.
Tim was finished high school, but hadn’t decided what to do next. So, he was working three part time jobs to meet his living expenses. Since he still lived at home with his Mom and Stepdad, his expenses were mostly his car, cell, clothes and carousing.
Being the youngest of three, and the only one still at home, Tim got a lot of attention from his extended family, as well. This included aunts, uncles, and grandparents on three sides…his Mom’s, his Dad’s and his Step-dad’s.
Tim’s Mom had made the appointment for him with me. And, he seemed OK being in my office, while his Mom waited in the reception area. After the preliminaries, I asked him why he had agreed to come see me.
Tim said, sarcastically, “You hear so much about neglected kids. Ken, did you ever meet someone who got too much adult attention?”
“I have indeed, Tim! Are you experiencing this affliction?” I replied.
“I got it bad! And, it is getting worse all the time!”
“Tell me about it!” I said.
“…and, I was late picking up my friend! It was a disaster!”
“I know I’m fortunate to have so many people who love me. And, I know I’m the last one around for them to dawdle over. But, I’m nineteen years of age, and have my own life to live…I can’t live it the way they want!” he said, clearly exasperated with his situation.
“You sound pretty frustrated, Tim. What’s been going on?” I asked.
He continued to vent, “Just because my Granddad bought me a car, doesn’t mean he can tell me when I can drive it. And, just because my Grandmother is a senior, doesn’t mean she should get her way, all the time.”
I interjected to get him to focus his thinking, instead of just feeling upset, “Tim, give me a recent example of what you’re referring to?”
He paused, then he said, “Sure! Mom asked me to pick up Grandma at the mall and drive her home. When I finally found her, she was still shopping. I asked her to please be quick because I was scheduled to meet a friend in half an hour. Well, didn’t she have a ‘hissy fit’ right there in the store…embarrassing me and accusing me of being disrespectful, ungrateful….a low life, etc., etc. Then, when she was good and ready, she went through the cashier, and then sulked all the way to her place…and, I was late picking up my friend! It was a disaster!”
“… there is a fair exchange of goods or services in every relationship..”
“Tim, how do you want your family to treat you…if not in the way they do now?”
“I want them to realize I’m an adult now…I have my own life!” he replied quickly with a hard edge in his voice.
“Tim, are you familiar with the concept of ‘fair exchange’ in relationships?”
“Not really. What does it mean?”
“Relationship help us survive and so nature’s law of balance ensures there is a fair exchange of goods, or services in every relationship, at all times. So, for example, you mentioned your Grandfather bought you a car…the pain was he paid for it. What did he get in exchange…the pleasure part?” I asked.
“I guess…he got my appreciation, and my loyalty!” Tim replied with a hesitation in his voice.
“Nature’s law of balance ensures there is equal amounts of pleasure and pain, for each person, in the relationship. So, my guess is the pleasure you received was getting the the car…but, what was the counterbalancing pain you also received, Tim?”
“Guilt can prevent us from setting the boundaries that would be in our best interests, and in other people’s best interests.”- Melody Beattie, author
“True love is equal support and challenge, not one or the other.”
“There was no pain, Ken…I got a brand new, metallic blue Echo. I don’t see any pain there.” He said with his trademark enthusiasm.
“Tim, the pain could be in several forms…but, here are a few of my guesses…you then felt indebted to your Grandfather…and probably, your Grandmother as well. You also lost some freedom because of that indebtedness. Isn’t that why you agreed to pick up your Grandmother at the mall even though you had another commitment?” I asked.
“I see what your saying…I never noticed that perspective before. So, I was paying back my Grandfather for the car by picking up my Grandmother…is that the idea?”
“That’s one way. Can you see how letting your Grandfather tell you when you can drive your new car is another loss of freedom and independence?”
“Yeah! I’m getting this now, Ken! I thought my Grandfather’s love for me got me the car. But there is something else, another agenda going on here!”
“Tim, there is another agenda…and it is love…but it is true love…not a one sided infatuation. True love is equal support and challenge, not one or the other. Your Grandfather’s love was perfect for you when he gave you the car…it is just that you didn’t realize it cost you equally, at the same moment, with the pain of obligation, the pain of less freedom, and the pain of indebtedness. But, now you know…and, you’re wiser for it.”
“So, now I know, you get nothing, for nothing. But, Ken, how does that help me deal with what’s going on right now?”
“… what do you need to do, to demonstrate your own boundaries…?”
“It sounds like you need to set some boundaries or limits…to define your indebtedness, to your family, so you can, also have an independent life of your own.”
“How do I do that, Ken?” Tim asked, perplexed.
“How have your siblings defined their independence, and set boundaries, with your family?”
“Well, they both moved out a long time ago, they provide for themselves and live their own life…but they do keep regular contact!”
“Tim, at this point in time, what do you need to do, to demonstrate your own boundaries and independence?”
“Well…when I think about it…?” he paused, then continued, “I think I need to have a chat with both my Grandparents and my Mom about my age, my plans…that sort of stuff. I think I also need to get my own place, sooner rather than later…that way, they will see my taking control of my own future…being more adult-like…setting my own boundaries… Does that sound like it makes sense? You know, it isn’t like I haven’t been thinking about doing these things…I just never acted on them.”
“The most important distinction anyone can ever make in their life is between who they are as an individual and their connection with others.”- Anné Linden, author
“… this is my opportunity to demonstrate it to myself, and my family…”
“Tim…that’s the balance law appearing, again. Can you see how the challenges presented by your family were the ‘kick in the pants’ or catalyst you needed to set clearer boundaries, and take more control of your our life? So, you have the perfect family for you to be who you are, do what you need to do, so you can have what you need, for your future?”
“I never would have believed that was true, if we hadn’t had, this discussion! But I sure get it now!” he replied with a grin.
Then he, grinning more widely, and passing me his credit card, added, “Ken, I just realized my Mom set this up for me; she brought me here today; and she was going to pay for this consultation. Now I realize, if I’m really going to set clearer boundaries, and be more independent, this is my opportunity to demonstrate it to myself, and my family, eh?”
“Indeed it is, Tim!” I replied.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” – Brene Brown, author
Until Next time…
Now you know, if you are struggling with fuzzy family boundaries, then here is your opportunity to set clear ones. Then, you can be more independent, which raises your self appreciation and self control, so you can develop your own dreams, and design your own destiny.
If you are struggling in your relationship, please go to our NEW VIDEO on how you can deal with it
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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